Looking at the map we thought we knew what we were doing. No way were we going to backtrack East toward Salt Lake city, no, we were going North through an area that no one really knew much about.
I rustily asked the old monolingual mexican dude if there was any fuel up there and he shrugged his shoulders and looked at me with that “you’re an idiot, why do you want to go up there anyway” expression. Screw it, we bought fuel cans and Adam was getting antsy in his pantsy to leave so we strapped them up and headed north up the suspiciously unused road.Turning to dirt we soon noticed the rarely seen dashed line on the GPS and a cattle grid; the state line to Nevada!
It’s weird that, as humans, we feel a need to delineate stuff, especially when you’re out in the desert taking photos of a random cattle grid and orange plastic pole with the barely visible “NEVADA STATE LINE” stenciled on it. Where are the booze and hookers? All we got was more dirt when the road shortly ended and we were back over the Utah line to some very remote farms. Those people really live a long way from nowhere.
I never got used to how a major road on the map can be such a disappointment. We crossed highway 30 and headed up to the unknown and a dot on the map called Grouse Creek. If you do this kind of trip across the ‘states it quickly becomes apparent that these towns are normally a small collection of buildings and nothing else. This made me pretty nervous because fuel was playing on my mind and it was getting late. Of course all that was nonsense. We cruised into this lovely quaint farming hamlet and saw an old guy putting along on his farm ATV. We introduced ourselves and he reciprocated in great humour by proclaiming his self appointment as Mayor. We asked about camping spots and were told that we could use the Rodeo ground, just along the road. There was power, water, cover and a toilet. Lovely! When we rolled up there was a couple there that ran the catering there; slightly guarded at first we chatted about their dogs and they soon made us feel very welcome, showing us where the water and light switches were. Tents were unnecessary so we just slept on our mattresses and sleeping bags. It was a lovely night with distant coyotes and a cool breeze, then a beautiful sunrise.
We did see a really weird thing in the sky. I would have never noticed but Adam was looking south, about 10 o’clock elevation and called over to me to check it out. After my eyes resolving the faint stars I saw a loop of light points about the same brightness as the surrounding stars chasing themselves. We stared at it for some time and it eventually dissolved. I can’t say I have ever seen anything like that and my rational mind can’t think of what it could have been. Pretty odd.
In the morning we followed our noses over some quite spectacular hills toward the Idaho state line with dreams of Sunday bacon and eggs, got distracted by the “City of Rocks” National Reserve (not really what I would call a city, per-say, more like a village) and ended up refueling in a gas station in Declo that had what seemed to be a nice looking food outlet. Things soon got pretty odd. A dude in a very sensible sedan wearing a suit congratulated us for touring the country and basically chastised us for not already having as many children as we could. He used a very close to the bone expression that said forthrightly “Us white people need to keep up our end of the population”, then he left and we went into the store. The door creaked and a clutch of men looked around. They were doing that hanging around for a while but not sitting down thing that men do in some circumstances when the should be somewhere else. You can see this behavior in fishing shops, motorcycle dealers and anywhere where the man can be in his natural habitat and drink isn’t involved. There was no food to be had, the glass display cabinets were empty and that’s when the penny dropped. Church. The man in the suit, the men in the foodless cafe and the total lack of beer. I paid for fuel and asked for food. I might as well have asked for a copy of Reader’s Wives or Teen Sluts because the look on the man’s face said “You heathens really shouldn’t be asking us to make food on a Sunday”. It was pretty weird and we were glad to be back on our bikes.
Relief came in the form of Village of Trees RV resort. Milkshakes, bacon and other ungodly things were imbibed whilst we made friends with Mad Max and Eric the Blacksmith. You know, the most interesting people in America live on what most would call the fringes of society. They’re not normal and that is what is so great about them. As usual we found them way too interesting and spent far too long hearing of Max’s brushes with Mexican bike gangs and looking at Eric’s workshop along with all the stuff he makes in the realm of the mountain man.
On the map you may notice a really big gap north of Minidoka. I blame Adam. Note the use of the word blame. It’s implying that an event happened that someone is responsible for. I was getting that weird spider sense that means “you don’t really want to go up there”, but that was being countered by the lovely experience of finding the Rodeo ground in Grouse Creek, another map black hole. Adam is a bit more gung-ho so we crossed the railway tracks and headed north through the ever diminishing and horribly corrugated farm roads until the GPS had only one spidery branching track to follow.
There was wind and a nasty barely existent rut track that broke out into horrible rocks and undulating corners with blind crests that promised a change of scenery but never delivered. Peppering the experience were millions of grasshoppers the numbers of which were biblical. They jumped through the hole in my fairing where my forks go, which meant me being rained on from below with a torrent of insects. Adam had it worse. He was behind for most of this and was splashed with the wake of these hopping nasties. Did I mention the wind? Trying to keep a big bike upright in a dusty rut with plagues of grasshoppers bothering you is hard enough but there was also a wind strong enough to lean against. It was awful. The kind of horrible that you want to just get over with but can’t because the track meandered through patches of nasty sharp volcanic rock.
About four hours later we arrived at Atomic City. I’m pretty sure the CIA put this ‘town’ here for nuclear testing because it is the most god forsaken place in the United States. Maybe that explains the plagues but what about the locals? Refreshingly drunk, they were relaxing after a day of racing cars round their own track. Again, awesome people that welcomed us like friends after we explained exactly where we had just ridden from. I got a lot of that on this trip.
“Where? You came from where? Are you sure you came from there? You know there is no road?” asked the man in a dusty plaid shirt, a greasy hand gesticulating a beer.
“Yes, I know, now give me a Coke before I pass out.”
We regretfully shrugged off offers of shots, signed a dollarbill for the wall and headed for civilisation. Riding at a 30 degree slant due to the incredible wind we saw a sign for a nuclear site and despite being totally beaten by the wind and insects we visited the site of the first Nuclear reactor. Can you believe they were building nuclear jet engines for aeroplanes in the 60s too? They are still there, out in the desert, rusting.
Luckily there was a room at the Lost River Motel but bad news came from Adam. The dry bag containing his lovely Belstaff jacket, tent, sleeping bag and a load of other stuff also contained a quart of engine oil. Contained, past tense, because the contents were now covering the contents of the blue dry bag. I made helpful comments like “You really shouldn’t have put that oil in there” whilst trying to avoid touching anything that Adam owned. He managed to wipe a lot of it clean but the Jacket was toast so we did what any self respecting adventure man would do and sent it to his mum. That really isn’t what you want to deal with after such a brutal day but Adam came out with good humor regaling me and a cool group of Kiwis we met with stories of the advertising world whilst we ate at Pickle’s Place .
Nathan’s Honda entertained us in the morning and provided more chain lube. That stuff doesn’t last very long when you’re doing two bikes and a load of miles. It propelled us west and toward more passes that we really weren’t expecting. I must have been getting tired by then because I didn’t take many photos, but I remember it being hard riding and spectacular. I even rode Adam’s bike for a while until we approached Sun Valley which was a complete culture shock. I chuckled at how Californian Adam has become in seeing an overpriced Quinoa salad and getting excited. There were vintage Porsches and equally well maintained older women parked in shady spots. We made the place look untidy and headed west again to a late night check in at a Motel in Boise, Idaho. The home of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Zen it was not to be…